Back to School Child Support

September 10, 2015

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Bulletin 23

Weeks before the opening of the new school year, many single mothers lined up at the Magistrate’s Court Complex in The Bahamas to apply for child support from their child’s fathers, for assistance. It is very unfortunate, that fathers are unable or unwilling to make an effort to financially maintain their children. Some mothers are often left with the burden of taking care of and doing everything for their child(ren) in our struggling economy today.  At the same time some of these mothers expect to receive a large amount for maintenance, tuition for a private school, other school expenses and medical expenses. The outcome of many matters like these are often disappointing for single mothers when they discover that they will not even get half of what they are seeking.

In order for a Magistrate to make an Order for maintenance he/she must consider both parties’ financial position. Both parties are normally required to prepare an Affidavit of Means, which outlines their income, assets, and expenses for themselves and for their child(ren). If the Affidavit shows that the mother is struggling to make ends meet and the father is also faced with financial hardship, he may only be ordered to pay a minimum of $50.00 per week unless he is able to pay more. If a mother is unable to support her child(ren) and the father earns more and has sufficient left over after his expenses, he may be ordered to pay more than $50.00 per week. In addition to maintenance, fathers may also be ordered to pay half or all of the medical expenses and also half or all of the educational expenses (this does not include tuition).

With regards to fathers paying tuition for a private school, a mother cannot compel her child’s father to pay the tuition at a private school especially if he cannot afford to pay same. In the case of K v O [2008] 3BHSJ No. 5, Hall CJ sums this issue up succinctly, when he said

“When considering the reasonable maintenance of children, the court can never assume the correctitude of the view common in this society that schooling at a private, fee-paying school is superior to that offered by publicly funded institutions. It would be impossible for the court, the judicial arm of state authority, to presume the inadequacy of the educational system which the state, in another manifestation, sustains from the taxes which support other institutions of state, including the courts. The adequacy, or otherwise, of a particular school – public or private – would have to be established by evidence in any case in which the issue became relevant. Moreover, experience does not support the popular fallacy of the inherent superiority of fee-paying schools. Accordingly, the court cannot compel a parent to contribute to the payment of school fees in the absence of evidence that such a parent can afford to do so and that it is unreasonable for him not to contribute having regard to the needs of the children, notwithstanding the necessity to re-order priorities following the break down of the marriage. More so, when the custodial parent, as does K in this case, include items such as “piano lessons” and “vacation”, in calculating the maintenance needs of the children, the court would regard these as extraordinary expenses, luxuries, which, if the parent is able to afford them, so be it, but to which the other parent should not be compelled to contribute.”

The financial positions of both parties must be considered and more importantly the needs of the child must also be taken into account. Depending on the resources of both parties the father may be or not be ordered to pay tuition at a private school based on his situation.

I believe that if both parents set GOALS for themselves and their child(ren), learn to COMMUNICATE with each other and work TOGETHER, they would avoid appearing before the Courts and save money from having to pay legal fees.

When parents are unable to communicate with each other, which is often shown in Court, the Magistrate will more than likely make an Order for both parties to attend parenting counseling. Mothers and fathers drag themselves and their child(ren) through so much unnecessary and unwanted drama. Why would anyone want their child(ren) to experience these situations? Parents should FORGIVE one another, strive to be better examples for their child(ren) if they are not already and of course LOVE their child(ren). It is almost 2016, and parents ought to be ashamed of themselves if they find themselves involved in these types of situations. Children of today are our future, they are our future leaders, doctors, lawyers, contractors, business owners and may be parents themselves one day and, if parents are not prepared to work together they may become our future criminals.  So we must set goals, communicate and work together, to build stronger communities and definitely build a stronger Bahamas.

Remember Henry Ford’s quote, which states, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

The information stated above is not intended to be construed as legal advice in anyway. Should you require specific guidance regarding same, you are advised to obtain legal advice.

Mikia S. Cooper of Halsbury Law ChambersMikia S. Cooper


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